Home, sweet home

The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR moored at Base Los Angeles/Long Beach.  U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR moored at Base Los Angeles/Long Beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR returned home to Kodiak on Nov. 29, 2015, after a nearly four-month deployment primarily for the purpose of completing about $1.7 million in much-needed maintenance and repair work.

The SPAR crew departed Kodiak on July 30 shortly after suffering a small, dime-sized breach to her hull in June at the very end of a long period of operational activity throughout the Aleutians, southwest Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska.

During this deployment, SPAR participated in the Coast Guard District 17 Buoy Tender Roundup held in Juneau, underwent an emergency drydock for the hull breach at Lake Union Drydock in Seattle, and completed an extensive 12-week dockside maintenance availability at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles/Long Beach in San Pedro, California.

The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR at drydock at Lake Union in Seattle.  U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR at drydock at Lake Union in Seattle. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The District 17 Buoy Tender Roundup provided a significant amount of training and sharing of best practices simply by virtue of having so much of the buoy tender fleet in the same place at the same time; 2015 was particularly special with the added inclusion of both Canadian and District 13 cutters.

The SPAR crew departed Juneau on August 4 en route to Lake Union Drydock in Seattle for emergency repairs. This was followed by maintenance and repair work at Terminal Island, San Pedro. Working both day and night shifts, often during  7-day work weeks, work was conducted to her machinery and hull. SPAR’s crew of 48 people worked tirelessly alongside the contracted workforce conducting inspections and providing expert knowledge and guidance on work items.

Chief Warrant Officer Nathan Reese, SPAR’s engineer officer and unit representative for both maintenance periods, noted that “without the utmost diligence of SPAR’s 29 Coast Guard inspectors, many work items would have suffered and perhaps not been accomplished.”

The ship’s crew continually provided their invaluable understanding of SPAR’s equipment, ensuring contract work was completed specifically in accordance with all government repair specifications.

“I was responsible for the stack space, basically installing new lighting and safety components,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt Deglau, an electrician’s mate who reported to the SPAR only a month before the lengthy patrol began. “It was right into the fire, right off the bat. Personally I got a lot of my required qualifications completed during the trip.”

Overall during SPAR’s deployment, Deglau and his new shipmates took full advantage of their time in the lower 48 to maximize the value of her time away from homeport and Alaskan waters. First, they transported three decommissioned NOAA weather buoy hulls and 140,000 lbs of used buoy chain for recycling. By being a transport vessel of opportunity, SPAR was able to save precious government funds as well as promote sustainability by recycling metals that would have otherwise languished on the island of Kodiak. Additionally, many crewmembers were sent to various training centers around the country to further develop skills required to carry out SPAR’s missions. For instance, 17 crewmembers received valuable practical shipboard damage control training in San Diego, where students were placed in a mock sinking ship to exercise their skills in stopping flooding. This practical training will prove valuable not only for sailing aboard a seagoing buoy tender, but also when SPAR is called upon to render rescue and assistance to other vessels.

While the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR transits the North Pacific Ocean, they’re greeted by a rainbow.  U.S. Coast Guard photo.

While the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR transits the North Pacific Ocean, they’re greeted by a rainbow. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

While pierside in San Pedro, the crew worked diligently to make sure that the ship received a fresh coat of paint on all exterior decks amongst a myriad of contract work and numerous scheduling setbacks. Other members of the crew assisted with maritime law enforcement duties off the coast of California. This included a joint security operation with various local agencies at the Buccaneer’s Day festival on Catalina Island, and assisting the Coast Guard Cutter George CObb, a buoy tender homeported in San Pedro, with a law enforcement patrol focused on boating safety in the region.

Although SPAR and her crew were originally scheduled to return to Kodiak by the end of October, several unforeseen issues delayed the ship’s return for more than a month. When SPAR finally departed Los Angeles on Saturday, November 21, to begin her voyage home, the crew celebrated Thanksgiving all the while battling a rough November transit in the Northern Pacific. In parting, SPAR’s commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Doug Jannusch, observed, “the crew is grateful to finally be home and rightfully very proud of SPAR’s much-improved condition that will enhance her operational effectiveness for years to come.”

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